April 1996, Volume 2, Number 2
Japan is the largest food importer in the world--Japan imported
over $10 billion in farm commodities from the US in 1995, and is
expected to import $11 billion in 1996.
Increasingly, Japanese fruits and vegetables are produced in China
and other southeast Asian countries. As recently as 1992, over 90
percent of the vegetables consumed in Japan were produced in the
country, but in 1994, Japan imported 650,000 metric tons of
vegetables. A short supply of rice caused by one of the worst
harvests in postwar Japan resulted in the emergency import of two
million tons of rice.
Supermarkets have led the push to produce vegetables outside
Japan. In many Japanese supermarkets, 10 to 20 percent of the fresh
vegetables are imported. The Japanese complain that small farms, and
a failure to honor contracts, may limit the expansion of production
for the Japanese market in Southeast Asia.
Within Japan, there are four small airports devoted to
transporting locally grown vegetables and flowers to Tokyo, at a
transport cost of $3 per pound for green onions. The "veggie
airports" were constructed after the 1993 Uruguay Round of trade
talks as part of a $60 billion, five-year spending plan to help
Japanese farmers adjust to liberalized agricultural trade.
Far Eastern Economic Review, November 23, 1995. "Japan's food
imports soar 11.5% in 1st half of '95," Japan Weekly Monitor, October